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Evicted from 12th Ave, Saba restaurant says city will investigate landlord discrimination

(Image: Saba Ethiopian Cuisine)

The 12th Ave restaurant at the center of a Seattle political battle over displacement was evicted and is out of business.

Its owner has passed away.

But there is still some fight in Saba.

The Ethiopian restaurant has won a victory with a key decision by the city’s Office for Civil Rights. According to a Tuesday announcement from Saba, it has become the first commercial tenant in Seattle to successfully file a discrimination complaint against a landlord/developer and that the office will take up the investigation into the allegations.

“The complaint states that the landlord engaged in differential and discriminatory treatment of the beloved owner of Saba, Workie Wubushet,” the announcement reads. “She claimed they did so by engaging in retaliatory abusive behavior, providing another tenant with greater care, respect and accommodation, whose lease expired a year prior while evicting her ‘a month’ before her lease expired and even falsely claiming she failed to pay rent.”

Wubushet died of cancer in October just months after her restaurant was evicted to make way for plans from Alchemy Real Estate and Isola Homes to demolish the property and create a six-story, 289-unit apartment building with commercial space and 11 “Live-Work Units,” plus underground parking for 230 vehicles.

The Ethiopian restaurant’s fight against displacement had been championed by District 3 rep Kshama Sawant but the eviction was still carried out..

The complaint is now being carried forward by Wubushet’s daughter, Saba Teklegiorgis.

“[The property owners] utilized the eviction process and orders to drive out businesses in the neighborhood that are minority and community-owned to make way for the apartments and bedrooms of the  ‘gentry’ i.e. those who have not lived or worked in that community,” the complaint reads. “We allege that the City has a duty to put a halt to racist gentrification/eviction orders by enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance cited above in this instance.”

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights enforces discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, and contracting within Seattle City Limits, according to its seattle.gov site.

Teklegiorgis is calling on the Office for Civil Rights to release the “Law Department’s Opinion Letter authorizing small businesses, restaurants, commercial establishments, and other property owners to benefit from the City’s strong anti-discrimination law” and to bring the landlords “to the table” to negotiate “a sum for Saba’s lost business and settlement offer that could cover the cost of replacement, relocation, and emotional suffering.”


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15 thoughts on “Evicted from 12th Ave, Saba restaurant says city will investigate landlord discrimination

  1. Some little known facts: The Ethiopian restaurant was treated exactly the same as the other 4 tenants along that block who are part of the Isola development project. They were informed about the sale and impending demolition years ago by the property owner who sold it, but never took it seriously. When confronted with the reality, they stopped paying rent and claimed “discrimination.” Workie of Saba swore at and threatened representatives of the two investment companies who offered to help her find a new location. When the time came to move out, she trashed the place and left dumpsters full of debris for the owners to deal with. This story is no more than a petulant child throwing a tantrum because they did not get their way. Pathetic. In the end, do you want more housing or not? 300 more apartments or a restaurant? Your choice.

    • Sounds biased. I need to hear all sides.

      Not the first time black folks are kicked out of the CD…….. they need to be immune to landlord decisions like this

      • Did Sawant take up the cause of that Jewish owned business who was being targeted with anti-Semitic abuse? No, she supported it. The CD is a historically Jewish and Asian neighborhood. It became a black neighborhood when the Japanese were taken and put in internment camps. I wonder why those who talk of people being “displaced” and “kicked out” ignore this? It doesn’t fit the narrative. And thanks Dan for the info. I believe you. The landlord should sue Sawant for discrimination. Her advocacy is based purely on the racial demographics involved. If that isn’t racism nothing is.

      • CD Blackness Forever: Biased? Your user name is biased. Anyway, why should “black folks” be exempt from “landlord decisions”? That’s racist. Should they also be exempt from black landlord decisions?

      • Not being guaranteed a space in perpetuity is a risk all who rent/lease take…… if you need stability you better work out a way to buy.
        This restaurant certainly isn’t the first and won’t be the last to disappear to development. RIP Piecora’s comes immediately to mind for me. I’m sure plenty of other people can list their lost favorites.

      • I also miss Piecora’s, but I’m pretty sure I remember reading that the owners of the restaurant also owned the building they were in and they cashed in.

  2. In our new “social democratic” “progressive” world these kinds of contrasts of racism vs. housing don’t matter any more. It’s about inculcating the idea that business and “millionaires and billionaires” are trying to screw you over. They wake up every morning trying to execute on their racist, misogynist, transgender discriminating, plastic straw promoting vision of the world all the while using a flat iron to melt glaciers. They are here to steal what is rightfully yours. Don’t let rational thought enter the picture. You might shatter the fairy tale. Meanwhile you keep digging. There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere.

  3. I was more sympathetic until I followed the link to the restaurant’s advocacy page and found they repeatedly accused the landlord of “privilege abuse” which seemed to mean “the right to do what they want with their own property while being well within the confines of the law”.

    • Privilege abuse is the exact opposite its knowing people of color have disadvantages in every area and abuse that power of influence by just being white. This is including the justice system. Why are black people getting shot in the back and whites being able to walk.

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